Posted on: 07.02.2024

How the Stanley cup went cult.

A product that was once at home slotted in the cupholder of a transit van, or nestled into a hiking rucksack. has now gained a cult following in hundreds of thousands of UK households – a companion for a supermarket shop, a school run or a WFH afternoon.

I’m talking, of course, about the ‘Stanley Cup’ – a water tumbler, not the trophy awarded to the winner of the National Hockey League championship. The Quencher, the style that is driving the most impact, comes in various sizes, but the 40 oz and 30 oz styles are the most popular, priced between £35 and £50. The product pushes features like a handle; the ability to keep drinks hot for five to seven hours and cold for nine to 11 hours; and the fact that it fits inside of most car cup holders.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about this – in fact, most reusable bottles in the same category offer the same if not superior features – so how has something so simple driven such a renaissance in popularity for a brand that launched its first product in 1913?

As it stands today, the Stanley cup has now amassed about 20 million views on TikTok, and achieved a 275% increase in year-on-year sales as a direct result. 

It can’t just be a new post-pandemic eco-conscious mindset, because there’s no matching uptick in search trends around reusable water bottles.. It’s also not just a love of hydration – as there are far many brands out there that offer a higher volume of liquid, and come in far cheaper.

So, how has the Stanley cup achieved this cult status? And how likely is it to keep it?

The power of the ‘mummy blogger’

Tracing the origins of the explosion of the Stanley tumbler back to ground zero, we can see that it starts with a number of content creators in the parenting space, singing the praises of… water consumption. Not very rock’n’roll, though ‘drinking’ did receive it’s very own hashtag: #WaterTok

Stanley cleverly identified and worked in partnership with these micro influencers, with highly engaged followings, to highlight the benefits of a Stanley cup for the ‘everyday household’. 

The fact it keeps your water colder (or hotter) for longer, means that a busy mum doesn’t have to fill it up so often. The fact that the straw and the vacuum lid work in partnership means that you don’t have to worry about spillages of hot drinks around the little ones, and the fact that they come in so many lovely colours with special edition ones released all the time gives the brand modernity and femininity all wrapped up in one plastic package.

A few still images on Instagram were one thing, but the resurgence of this 100 year old brand came on TikTok. Hundreds of benefits videos – some paid for, some organic – started to pop up. 

Four reasons I love my Stanley cup…
This cup is a gamechanger…
The best beverages for your Stanley cup…

Suddenly, the parenting spaces were on fire – and it seemed like even videos that weren’t focussing on the cup itself, had one in the background. 

It then started to devolve into other areas – #skincaretok, because water consumption is good for your skin, #fitnesstok, because it’s the easiest way to hydrate in the gym, and even #dogtok, as the perfect dog walking accessory. 

Through cleverly curated partnerships, the Quencher became a must-have, simply because everyone else already had one.

A case for collections

Now, a cup that’s driving sales for its reusable nature has a natural problem – once you’ve sold a high quality receptacle, one that doesn’t need replacing for years, how do you attract repeat business?

It’s an issue that they don’t seem to face.

With savvy marketing, the team have managed to encourage some consumers to fill their cabinets with a rainbow of Stanley cups, adding to their collections every time a new colorway or limited-edition drop comes out.

The idea comes from the influencers, who push home the idea of having a cup for every occasion – so they’re looking at multiple Quenchers for different areas of their lives — one for their morning coffee, one just for water, one for their workouts. 

There’s even a new trend which showcases people picking a cup to go with different outfits, and now a new trend emerging of people starting to decorate them with stickers.

Many are now engaging in a battle to become the person that owns the most of the cups, or that customises them the best.

Cleverly, to drive even more interest in new releases, the company has adopted a tactic around ‘drops’ that’s often seen in sneaker culture and used by streetwear brands. It creates a limited edition feel, and a rush to purchase whilst the adrenaline rush of waiting in a ‘line’ for something to appear is live.

In doing all of this, they’ve created a ‘community’ around the brand. Owning a Quencher means becoming part of that community, led by the creators who hail it as a lifestyle essential. 

It bides the question  – when does a collection simply become over consumption? However, it’s a golden strategy for Stanley as a brand and their revenue streams are building because of it.

Changing with the times

Anyone looking at the rise of the Stanley may be forgiven for not realising the heritage and history of the brand. 

This is a cup that has been marketed since George V was on the throne, which has only recently become a cult phenomenon. So how has it lasted, and how has it grown?

The secret is their adaptability. 

In the past few years, the brand has done a good job connecting with both existing and potential customers; committing to their core design principles of form, function and design; and in having the ability to act on changing trends within their marketing team.

Whether this is a bubble that will pop – perhaps with the pin-prick being the simple fact that in order for the cup to have value in your life and for the planet, you actually have to reuse it – or whether they’ll continue to rise to the occasion and adapt in an increasingly crowded market, is uncertain.

What is for certain, though, is you’re likely to have more than a few crowding your work desks this summer.

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